Analysis

Vox video spreads abortion misinformation while pretending to correct it

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Just days after unsuccessfully arguing that banning abortion with rape and health exceptions is still too extreme, Vox has a new video that purports to debunk the “biggest myth about abortion you probably think is true.” Unfortunately, being Vox, all the video ends up doing is reinforcing myths.

The video’s narrator, Liz Plank, demonstrates that those who “feel passionate about abortion” “don’t know much about it” by interviewing pro-life protestors outside the Supreme Court. First:

Q: How often is surgery and sort of cutting involved when there’s abortion?

A: I am not a medical student.

PLANK: Most abortions actually don’t involve any kind of cutting or surgery. But in the protestors’ defense, a Vox poll showed that most Americans on both sides of the aisle don’t know this either.

It’s true that most abortions don’t involve cutting the mother (something I don’t recall a pro-lifer ever claiming anyway), but 78% of overall abortions and 96% of second-trimester ones involve tearing apart the baby, whether through suction or simply pulling the pieces apart with blunt instruments. To raise “it’s not specifically cutting!” as a defense, despite the technical detail neither refuting a specific claim pro-lifers are making nor altering anyone’s objections to abortion, is the very definition of pedantry.

Q: How safe is abortion?

A: I have no clue.

A: Many women in Texas and other places around the country have been hurt in abortion facilities that aren’t up to basic medical standards.

A: I mean, I don’t know a specific number, but a lot.

Before we get to Plank’s answer, it’s worth pointing out the meaninglessness of taking a few random private citizens who are pro-life, not professional pro-life advocates, and acting like you have a real story just because they don’t have particular statistics memorized. Really, Vox?

Most people aren’t human encyclopedias with psychic links to Google, and this may come as a shock, but usually even professionals have to look up specific facts before speaking up in public. Exhibit A: Vox itself, which despite its pompous tagline as the “news explainer” there to “make sure you understand what just happened,” is so notorious for getting details wrong that conservatives and liberals (language warning) alike mock the site for it.

A bigger indicator of a movement’s knowledgeability is the pervasiveness of ignorance about its own most basic beliefs and arguments—like, for instance, not knowing the scientific consensus on when life begins (Vox itself is stumped on that one), not knowing how biology even defines organisms, not knowing how many of their own side’s legal minds think Roe v. Wade was bad law, not knowing that pro-choice Supreme Court opinions also uphold many of the pro-life laws they’re trying to sue, or where the constitutional authority to force people to pay for contraceptives comes from…

Actually, abortion is safer than a host of other really common procedures like getting a colonoscopy or getting your wisdom teeth removed. If you’re only looking at the safety of the mother, abortion is actually safer than childbirth. And again, it’s not just anti-abortion protestors who don’t know this.

Actually, we “don’t know this” because it’s not true. In 2012, Professor Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University challenged the oft-cited claim that abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth, noting that the previous study making this claim suffered from severe underreporting of abortion data, wrongly classified deaths due to abortion as mere pregnancy deaths, and failed to consider abortions past the first trimester. (Abortion underreporting is a major problem that obscures numerous truths surrounding abortion.)

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Another study the next year, from West Virginia University-Charleston’s Obstetrics & Gynecology Dept.’s vice chair Dr. Byron Calhoun, also deemed the number bogus for similar reasons. Also in 2013, Coleman and the Elliot Institute’s Dr. David Reardon examined 30 years of data from women in Denmark and found that abortion at 12 weeks or earlier was linked to an 80 percent higher risk of death within a year of the procedure, and 40 percent higher within 10 years.

In addition to mortality rates, abortion carries a range of physical, mental, and emotional dangers you won’t learn about from Vox—and that’s just from the “good” abortionists; we haven’t even gotten to the ones who blatantly disregard medical rules and patient safety because pro-abortion politicians and organizations look the other way and cover for them. Plank writes:

Around 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Maybe it’s time to talk about it with them.

Or maybe it’s time for Vox to do some actual research, from which they would learn the actual statistic the (biased and questionable) Guttmacher Institute is just under 28%, not 33%, and the original study this claim came from, which actually said it was 30%, warned even that wasn’t intended to be taken as a “precise measure.”

Throughout the video, Plank puts on a veneer of impartiality by saying pro-lifers and pro-choicers are often under the same (supposed) misconceptions. But in the end she blows it away by saying the ultimate reason “Americans don’t know these facts” is because “the pro-life movement is capitalizing on this myth that abortion is inherently dangerous, and it’s not.” It’s pro-lifers’ fault because of course it is:

There are far more effective ways of actually improving women’s health like increasing access to health care, contraception, and prenatal care. But the majority of us don’t know the facts. Or worse the facts we do know are wrong.

Why does the public know wrong facts? Maybe because we get them from unreliable sources like Vox.

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